Election season events provide a valuable opportunity to reach and educate elected officials and candidates for office about critical veterans’ issues. But it’s important to remember, in accordance with DAV’s Constitution and Bylaws, DAV is a nonpartisan organization. DAV cannot endorse or oppose any particular party or candidate for office. When speaking as a DAV member or leader, you must be sure to separate your personal opinion from the organization and not indicate your support or opposition to any particular party or candidate.
There are still many ways you can participate in political events or campaigns. DAV and Auxiliary members play an invaluable role in reaching out to all candidates and educating them on what veterans need and want from the new Administration, Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is also appropriate for DAV members to attend town hall meetings and debates to ask candidates questions about their stance on veterans’ issues such as VA health care reform. Just remember, DAV supports legislation and policies—not candidates or parties—that positively impact veterans.
“We uniquely understand the value of the First Amendment because we sacrificed to defend it, but we must also recognize that misrepresenting the views of our organization based on our personal opinions is unfair to our fellow veterans,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “We want to learn how candidates will take action to fulfill our promises to veterans, but if we’re representing DAV, it’s critical that we represent a united, nonpartisan front. Our cause is too important to be divided along party lines.”
DAV members fall under the guidance of the DAV National Bylaws, established each year at the DAV National Convention. According to Article 2, Section 2.2 – Legislative Activities, “No member shall appear before any legislative body or speak in the name of this organization or any subdivision thereof propounding a position contrary to any resolution then in effect with regard to such legislation, which resolution has been regularly adopted by the National Convention, the National Executive Committee, a state executive committee or state department.”
In order to maintain the integrity of the organization, DAV’s stance on veterans’ issues is based on resolutions voted on and approved by DAV delegates annually at the National Convention.
“We encourage all of our members to be as active in the political process as they see fit,” said DAV National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “But it’s also the members’ duty when speaking on behalf of the organization or wearing a hat or clothing with the DAV logo, to avoid even the appearance of favoring or opposing a particular candidate.”
“DAV is in the business of helping veterans,” added Augustine. “During this campaign season, DAV members should be focused on ensuring lawmakers keep their promises to those who have served.”